Just One More Win, Baby!

Howard's homers send Phils to victory

With two big swings, Ryan Howard powered the Philadelphia Phillies to the brink of a long-awaited title.

Howard homered twice and drove in five runs, and the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays 10-2 in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night.

The Fightin' Phils are one victory away from capturing the second World Series championship in franchise history. They wouldn't be here without their big slugger.

"We just have to stay focused and hopefully come out with that 'W,"' Howard said.

Howard had a power outage in the playoffs -- until he went deep in Game 3. He struggled in the first two games of the Series, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts with RISP.

None of the Phillies could hit with runners on. They were 4-for-43 with runners in scoring position before Howard connected in the fourth. Overall, they're 6-for-47.

Those stats don't seem to matter much right now.

Howard, who went 42 postseason at-bats without a homer before the Game 3 drive, became the second Phillies player to hit two homers in a Series game. Lenny Dykstra did it in 1993 against Toronto. Howard's five RBIs tied Milt Thompson's team record for most in a game, also in the '93 Series. He came in with only four postseason RBIs.

"To be able to have two home runs in the World Series is something you dream about as a teenager," Howard said. "To help my team win, that's a great feeling."

Howard broke a 13-game homerless streak, dating to the regular season, with a solo shot off Matt Garza in Saturday night's 5-4 win.

He was just getting started with that drive.

With the Phillies leading this one 2-1 in the fourth inning and stranding runners at an alarming rate, Howard delivered. He drove Andy Sonnanstine's 2-1 pitch into the left-field seats to put the Phillies ahead 5-1.

Howard, who's hit plenty of opposite-field shots at Citizens Bank Park, knew it was gone when he made contact. He paused to admire the shot before circling the bases. The towel-waving crowd roared, demanding a curtain call.

If that wasn't enough, Howard went deep again in the eighth. He ripped a two-run shot into the seats in right-center. Overall, he's batting .353 (6-for-17) with three homers and six RBIs in the Series.

"I just stayed within myself," Howard said. "I think a lot was made of it earlier. You go through funks where things don't work out."

Criticized for his paltry average (.251) and high strikeouts (199), Howard still was the best run producer in the majors this season. He led the league with 48 homers and 146 RBIs, and was at his best when the Phillies needed him most.

Howard batted .352 with 11 homers and a club-record 32 RBIs in September, helping Philadelphia overtake the New York Mets to win its second straight NL East title and making a case for his second MVP award in three seasons.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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